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Neuroni u sepiji.
SILENT LAND TIME MACHINE & SYMBOL – FALL TOUR 2012 photos & audio:
Recent literature on neuroscience might be summarized:
Even in the healthiest of brains, there is not one unanimous will, there are several. Some urges are louder and more persuasive, while others are hopelessly outgunned. Certain impulses are too quick to notice, and we act on them before we realize it. Others are much slower. Even others, elemental. But in short, the gray matter is soaked by numbers of conflicting neurotransmitters, and therefore by numbers of conflicting wills. To the point that the terms id, ego and superego need a dozen new counterparts. Yet for most of us, it all comes together as a cohesive whole.
Like no other album we can name, Silent Land Time Machine’s June 6 EP I am no longer alone sounds exactly like result of that, like the balance struck between the multitude of wills. In this case, of aesthetic wills. This is a place of acoustic lushness, AM radio distance, electronic trickery, vocal horseplay, groovy dissonance, and a USB cable plugged into Renoise at one end and the psyche at the other. Case in point, the full title: I am no longer alone with myself and can only artificially recall the scary and beautiful feeling of solitude.
Nowhere is the balance more evident than with the angular carnival waltz “an own to one’s room.” A muffled, processed piano opens the track, joined after a measure or two by wobbly vowels, the sound of the human voice
reprocessed into a kazoo. (You’d be just in mistaking this for an instrumental album at first, but no, that’s a voice, with verse and chorus and all.) To this point the intent of the song seems pretty clear: Beckett-inspired absurdism for its own sake. Yet now an unadorned piano bit appears at the mid-span, alongside pangs of viola. But still there are no easy answers: the clouds of whimsy do not part for a lovely finish. Instead, the thesis and antithesis braid together for a heady and complex synthesis. Mental.
The tension isn’t always so high. “remembering names” and album closer “dealing w/ doubt” are simply beautiful, without some new compositional firework setting off every few measures. For example the former allows a stark viola loop to rise from and sink back into gentle, ambiguous oscillations (however tempting it might have been, there is no quick-fix piano/noise dialectic to be had). Other songs tend more toward the quirky, say “automata” or opener “even floating islands fall,” which is the closest stop to the artist’s hometown of Austin, Texas we will find; let’s agree on “animated Kentucky” just to keep the discussion moving. Scant tuned percussion, banjo, and the same exaggerated vocals from “an own to one’s room” set the pins up, while the busy scratching of viola and a noisy, syncopated rhythm knocks them down. But the album highlight is “dealing w/ doubt,” which layers whispers of strings over two-way radio electronics and a gradual blanket of static.
With the vinyl debut coinciding with the anniversary of Carl Jung’s death, I am no longer alone takes its title from the final pages of Jung’s journals. So the album’s last surprise is that our first impressions were true: this is the sound of the fragmented self, with all of the humor, terror, absurdity and beauty that it implies.-Bloodhound themuseinmusic.com/
& Hope Still (2008) streaming
From TIME-LAG catalog: “here’s something a bit different… a collaborative release with the band’s own indian queen label. pretty hard to pin this one down, but its a trip for sure. a rather mysterious one man band solo outing from texas, who builds up layer upon layer of violin, viola, acoustic guitar, slippery electric slide, percussion, electronics, accordion, buried vocals, and found sounds into haunted, rollicking, thick sonic blankets of sound. many simple parts entwined, looped, and orchestrated into an undulating whole, like naive bedroom folkrock filtered through some blissed out minimalist phase experiment. ecstatic, post-psychedelic chamber rock maybe? really doesn’t sound like much else out there, but its instantly enjoyable, energized, and grooves freely in its own uplifting way.
“One of the more evocative band names in awhile, and with music to match — this one-man act’s rustic loops and collages are a bit like a backwater Panda Bear or Godspeed You Black Emperor, with all the hypnotic, emotive power that suggests.”- Allmusic Blog
“This is pretty much the most unclassifiable and impossible to pigeonhole piece of music I’ve ever listened to. Layers upon layers of instruments eventually transform these songs into full-on rural outsider barnburning jam sessions. I won’t go on and on about this, as I will only talk in circles about how hard it is to define, but I can tell you that I could not recommend it more enthusiastically. 100% essential.” – OMG Vinyl
“Found noise, static and loops punctuate traditional piano, guitar and wordless choruses, making each song a unique testament to the modern songwriter’s devotion to the real. We hear it’s called chamber folk, and we’re hooked.” – Austinist
“…an excellent effort from Texan one-man band…for an album recorded in a bedroom in the autumn of 2006 and winter of 2007-08, its production values and high level of musicianship and professionalism actually make it rather difficult to critique, except only to endorse it with high praise.” – Foxy Digitalis
“Earthy, realistic optimism seeps out of &hope still with every passing second…While Silent Land Time Machine have control over their sound in &hope still, one can’t help but wonder if this was beginner’s luck, or if the one man show simply is just that good. Only time will show what the case may be, but for now we should be lucky to have such a beautiful release.”
- The Silent Ballet (RIP)
“&hope still is all shades sepia via sound. Built on layers of acoustic instrumentation combined with various audio ghosts and samples, Silent Land Time Machine is a chamber folk orchestra of beautiful construction. Similarly wonderful, is the fact that this “orchestra” has been constructed with only two hands.” – Forest Gospel
Headphone Commute’s “Essentials of 2008”
“…the underlying songforms are highly engaging and the hodgepodge collection of sounds work in such an alchemical way that it all just inexplicably comes together perfectly…we must say it’s one of the most refreshing and unique records we’ve heard in awhile! – Aquarius Records
“&hope still is a really sympathetic record and it has content for many listens to come. This music is fragile yet powerful – it’s something you don’t have to argue about but you feel comfortable being with.” – Noise.Fi
Co-released on Time Lag and Indian Queen Records, & Hope Still is the debut album from one Silent Land Time Machine, a one-man recording project of a fellow from Texas who has managed to teach himself how to play a lot of different instruments and build up a beguiling little album with some crafty layering and subtle shifts in sound that call to mind a ton of different artists but doesn't really sound like any one of them in particular.
There's acoustic guitar, viola and violin, accordion, piano, some hand-percussion, piano, and some other random noise makers (and some occasional wordless vocals), and the result is seven warm tracks that never get too dense and manage to unfold gracefully while revealing new layers at regular intervals. Because of the instrumentation involved, there's a palatable connection to a variety of Constellation Records artists. One can hear a bit of the quiet moments of Do Make Say Think, a tinge of the more organic Polmo Polpo, and maybe a little bit of Silver Mt. Zion if they weren't so damn serious.
"Everything Goes To Shit" kicks things off and is easily among the best tracks on the release as see-sawing violins weave back and forth with some stomping percussion and wheezy accordion as background vocals kick in and make the whole thing rise into a frenzy over the course of eight minutes that sounds like a true community back-porch hoe-down blowout. "The Thing This Doesn't Mean Is Nothing" takes many of the same elements and splays out over more than ten minutes, with some beautiful trilled guitar parts that fade into a string-driven bridge and finally some slightly-filtered percussive breakdown that again adds a delightful rhythmic element to the mix.
Even though it's very organic in feel, most of the tracks on & Hope Still develop in very loop-based ways. Pieces like "Down The Hill" work in additive and subtractive ways, bringing in layers slowly then taking away things to leave the listener in a slightly different place than where they started. It's at its best when it incorporates all angles, as it does on album-closer "Copperpot Topography," as harsh feedback swells mingle with delicate vocals, acoustic guitars, muffled rhythms, a rough string quartet and some minor processing. A very solid debut, this one is worth seeking out if any of the above tickles your fancy. - www.almostcool.org/
Devotion Actualizes: A Look at Silent Land Time Machine and Indian Queen Records
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about devotion. Never mind why. People seem to decide to become devoted to something, and then they are. It doesn’t make sense at first, like when two of your friends decide to get married way younger than everyone else thinks they should and people quietly wonder to each other how long it’ll be before they’re sick of each other. At a certain point I started wondering what triggered this desire to give oneself over and transcend oneself through something (or someone) else. I still wonder, but one thing I’ve noticed is that as devotion deepens, the question itself – Why? – ceases to matter. It dissolves. Then suddenly the question makes even less sense than the answers had. The late Roger Ebert described his wife Chaz as “the great fact” of his life. Thus devotion actualizes, making real fabric and food of things.
As a New Orleanian and bibliophile, I find an extraordinary example in Loujon Press, the legendary French Quarter independent publisher established by Jon and Gypsy Lou Webb in the early ‘60s. Jon Webb was something of a con man, but he wasn’t looking for an easy score here, as his outlook on publishing books could fairly be described as quixotic – working with outdated equipment, moving frequently, pouring lavish amounts of attention onto printing literally every page of every copy of every book, and, most importantly, deeply devoted to introducing challenging, visionary writers to discerning readers.
In its roughly ten years of existence, in addition to four issues of its The Outsider literary magazine, Loujon published two early books of poetry by Charles Bukowski and two later works by Henry Miller. That’s all. As this excellent two-part profile by Nate Martin, editor of the lauded Room 220 literary blog, reveals, the abundant devotion in every Loujon creation was simply a fact, immutable and beyond question, something to be nodded to seriously and prudently whenever it’s mentioned in one’s presence. All the difficulties, even the ones that eventually ground down the Webbs’ operation into nothing in the early ‘70s, were peach fuzz.
As Martin mentions, Loujon “operated during a particular moment” in its industry that allowed it to be what it was. Incubated by the writing, the ongoing pageantry of the French Quarter, and one another, the Webbs managed to produce art objects that were unburdened by taste, time, or technical limitation. A work-trade between the unique energy of a community in a moment and the individuals working within it.
There’s a strong parallel between this and what you hear about music in Austin, TX. A long-stewing arts pedigree. Excitement and a charge in the air. People coming and going, long-timers, all being inspired, “a sound” coalescing around the individual impressiveness of any of several bands.
Into this smelter, throw Austin’s Indian Queen Records, proudly declaring itself as a “small, art-intensive, fiercely independent record label.” Consider how deliberate, carefully curated labels like this one can fill in the still-elusive-unless-you’re-there cultural map of a place. There are more resources than ever to do so – the internet and renewed interest in vinyl and experimental music and the backlash from the perceived vanishing of art objects and whathaveyou. But Indian Queen and its moniker’d proprietor, Silent Land Time Machine, possess a commitment to wanting things to be a certain way.
Although it’s been out for quite a while by now, I felt an undiminished sense of wonder surrounding Indian Queen’s latest release, SLTM’s second EP, entitled I am no longer alone with myself and can only artificially recall the scary and beautiful feeling of solutide. From its physical heft, to its fascinatingly organic and minimal artwork, to its impassioned credit-sequence ruminations on systems of exploitation, this is a release in which everything has been considered.Despite the melancholy hinted at by the album’s title (which was culled from C.G. Jung’s final diary entry), not to mention the aforementioned ruminations, there’s a sense of exploration in I am no longer… that seems fundamentally open-ended and positive. Especially with such evocative titles (see below), it’s tempting to view the album as programmatic, representing some specific idea or state. But SLTM’s musical process is emphatically organic, committed to the process itself. This is what makes the lushness of I am no longer… sound easy – its sense of order reflects such close attention to detail.
Opener “Even Floating Islands Fall” teems with enthusiasm – a bustling and idealistic overture that seems at odds with its name. This mood is often present, even shining through in very dark passages. The patient build of “Remembering Names” hints at something welling from within, perhaps unexpressed in a deeply layered drone cloud. Loops of “Kissa” are reminiscent of the distant, wistful fanfare underpinning Sigur Ros’ Takk… Like their physical manifestations, this music has weight, heft.
“An Own To One’s Room” is more whimsical and song-ish with mangled singalong vocals and a melody constantly being pulled at by sonic ephemera, while beats on “≠automata” address the listener in more fractured, mechanized ways. “Dealing With Doubt” implodes on itself, exuding a profound and musical ambivalence that has been sneaking around the whole album, dueling with its upbeat counterpart. Again, SLTM’s music blurs the line between abstraction and precise emotional evocation.
All this contrasts richly with SLTM’s critically acclaimed debut, &hope still (also Indian Queen Records’ debut release, in conjunction with Time-Lag). &hope is rooted in ecstatically building drone-folk initially inspired by Constellation Records bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and others. One standout, “the contours of perfect distance,” exemplifies the approach particularly well, driven by multitracked swells of violin with electronic detritus bustling behind it, not really trying to overtake, but nevertheless causing significant tension. “contours” was one of the pieces I saw during a stripped-down and organic live set when I happened to catch SLTM on a sublime bill with Jessica Pratt and Grouper (featuring a surprise appearance by Ilyas Ahmed) at Austin’s Chaos in Tejas festival. Playing in a towering church, SLTM moved through crescendos of shruti box and violin loops, blending four existing pieces into a seamless, gorgeous drone set.
There’s one thrilling development from &hope to I am no longer… – the latter seems significantly more comfortable with abstraction. Though the pieces themselves tend to have clear structures, the parts that make them up are freed from the structure of traditional musical phrasing. Prominent looped phrases are more abstract, hinting at chord progressions without ever realizing them. Electronic textures are meticulously applied and flourish subtly, like undergrowth on a forest floor. There’s not much that’s ostentatious about I am no longer…, and although not everything may catch on the first listen, it’s intensely more rewarding on each subsequent spin.
Sandwiched catalog-wise for Indian Queen, in between the two SLTM releases, is Quartz, a lovely 7″ from longtime Austin sound collagist Smokey Emery, aka Daniel Hipolito. Although it sounds dark and even blackened at times, this is highly evolved drone, constantly shifting into different zones in the subtlest of ways, much in the same manner as the beloved Black Swan.
SLTM also runs the equally well-curated Holodeck label with members of the tremendous Austin band Pure X. However, Indian Queen isn’t just mining local treasures. Out in late July (Indian Queen does the LP; Holodeck handles the tape) is an untitled reissue of a 2006 CD-R from Chicago’s Good Stuff House, consisting of Matt Christenson and Mike Weis from drone domestics Zelienople along with desolate-drone songwriter Scott Tuma. Make no mistake about the humble nomenclature – this is a truly mesmerizing album, just as affecting as Zelienople’s extraordinary Type releases (or their and Tuma’s whole catalogs, really).
An intriguing side of the BRAINCLUB Vol II LP and a future release in collaboration with Eric Craven of Montreal duo Hangedup promise to extend SLTM’s reach even further as well. And although it’s easy to get excited on the upswing, the quality to Indian Queen’s releases should help artist and label stand firmly as they unearth yearned-for connections between adventurous musicians. After all, it’s the devotion to the process itself that drives the whole machine.- www.secretdecoder.net/